“I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together: black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance under the same proud flag to this big, bold country that we love. That's what I see. That's the America I know!”
~ Barack Obama
This article is inspired by the students of Pitt who demonstrated a powerful peaceful counter protest to radical Christians advocating hate speech and threats to the LGBTQIA and women community of Pitt.
For many of us students when we watch mainstream media such as the news or tv shows or movies, we see the integrated acceptance and the progressiveness of the LGBTQIA community almost everywhere: Anderson Cooper from CNN, Ellen Degeneres from The Ellen Show, Colton Haynes from Teen Wolf , Neil Patrick Harrison from How I Met Your Mother, George Takei from Star Trek, Rosie O'Donnell, Raven-Symone from That’s so raven, Bessie Smith, one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, Wanda Sykes, Robin Roberts, Frank Ocean etc. We see and know many LGBTQIA celebrities, but can you name another famous Asian or Asian-American celebrity other than George Takei? While there is no doubt that there are many not commonly known gay Asians/Asian-Americans there seems to be a lack of solidarity among the LGBTQIA Asian community compared to our American and African American brothers and sisters from an asian centric point of view.
For many gay Asians/Asian-Americans coming out to one’s parents might be the most difficult experience one might encounter. I can only speculate a few reasons why; Asian parents are usually very traditional in their values and tend to raise their children in the same manner, their children more likely than not has been raised religiously, and most likely your Asian parents may have lived in time when homosexuality was considered an illness or outlawed or even punishable by death or simply the fact that homosexuality has a strong negative connotation in their country of origin.
We as first generation of immigrants or first generation Asian-Americans and above have experienced a total culture clash. Growing up we may have been taught the same traditional standards our parents were taught, we may have been raised with the same religion as our parents, but we do not experience the same negative connotations to homosexuality in the Western world as compared to our parent’s country of origin. The Western world has already accepted LGBTQIA rights, publicly support the LGBTQIA community in the various branches of government, and already have celebrity icons showing their support leading the fight for same-sex marriage. While in the Asian world, the majority of Asian governments disapprove or show disgust towards the notion of homosexuality and people caught committing homosexual acts are charged with a crime at best and killed at worse. There are such few icons gay Asians/Asian-Americans can look up to for support. We come back to the idea of representation and how powerful it can be mentally when we see the lack of approval for leading a gay lifestyle.
So yes, for the majority of gay Asians/Asian-Americans its very difficult to come out, because of the deep rooted traditional values like family and gender roles and religion that have been instilled in them by mom and dad. So they fear being rejected from the family, being shunned, finding that their parents are disgusted at them, finding that their parents are embarrassed by them, finding that they have failed their parent’s expectations, or even all of the above. You would think that the notion of family means unconditional love and don’t get me wrong, to some it is, but to others it may not be the case.
It is quite difficult to live knowing that the culture and environment your parents tried to raise up in differs from the culture and environment you actually live in. Eventually, change will come. The generation of Asians in the Western world will one day feel not so far apart with the generation of Asians in Asia. We are seeing a shift to a more progressiveness stance in the Asian world, such as Taiwan being the first Asian country to approve same-sex marriage, Vietnam having tolerated gay marriage, Nepal being the first Asian country to protect LGBTQIA rights in their constitution, and Israel being the most progressive Asian country on gay rights.